Google Universal Analytics: 'Customer Centric' Data
Written by Kathryn Galland
It is the age of data analysis and businesses that don’t get with the program are left behind. At least, that is the sentiment in the digital business community.
Web analytics has improved our understanding of customer behaviour with the ability to track how visitors navigate through information online. It has come a long way from tracking page views. In fact, it’s rapidly evolving to track how customers interact with brands not only across digital platforms but also in physical interactions, such as a purchase made in store.
In March, Google released Universal Analytics into public beta, a “new generation” of the company’s analytics platform. It’s a stream of “customer-centric” technologies that enable businesses to track visitor engagement across multi-screen devices and incorporate offline data from customer relationship management (CRM) and point-of-sale systems.
Universal Analytics is about capturing both online and offline interactions in one place for easier analysis.
How does Universal Analytics work?
An enticing new feature for businesses is the capability to upload offline data and integrate it with any existing business systems. Australian businesses should note that this involves technical know-how to implement. Yes, it’s possible to import data collected offline via RFID readers or point-of-sale systems, but it must be formatted according to the new Measurement Protocol.
Another significant change to the standard Google Analytics is the ability to track customers, not with cookies, but with an anonymous client ID that is tied to the individual rather than the web session. This allows businesses to see multiple interactions from the same individual if the user is signed in. It works best if registration is required to access the website.
Using a unique universal tracking ID is a better solution, according to Brown. “Today, with so many devices and interactions between audience and brand, relying on cookies is simply too messy,” Brown says. “The new igeneration of Google Analytics is based on acknowledging this fact—you can't reliably track through a spaghetti of cookies.”
What does this mean for businesses?
With the right knowledge and creativity, businesses can find ways to track footfall in a store or send transaction data into Universal Analytics as explained by web analytics expert Julien Coquet.
A webcam placed at the front of a store can track people walking in and send this data into Universal Analytics for analysis against other marketing campaign initiatives. And it’s possible to measure offline conversions as well by sending transaction data from point-of-sale systems.
Businesses can likewise integrate loyalty card program or, perhaps, call centre systems data to see a more complete picture of the customer journey. For example, with call tracking integration businesses can see which regions convert the most business, as demonstrated in a Universal Analytics demo by Ifbyphone.
Online, the tracking possibilities are also greater. By tracking customers with universal client IDs, it becomes easier to analyse a customer’s behaviour from one multi-screen device to another, over multiple sessions and with several instances of the browser.
Additionally, businesses can import cost data into Universal Analytics for richer data segmentation as well as more accurate return on investment (ROI) analysis across marketing channels.
How will changes to web analytics affect businesses?
Right now web analysts and businesses are experimenting with the new possibilities, though it’s clear that web analytics is expanding to include more marketing touchpoints with a focus on maintaining customers.
Through multi-session analysis and better integration of offline and online data, it will be easier for businesses to understand the behaviour of repeat buyers and compare customer interactions across web, mobile and offline platforms. Thus, businesses will more effectively tailor the look and feel of their messaging and adjust budget accordingly.
Successful businesses will tap into the ability to customise dimensions and metrics in Universal Analytics to suit their particular needs. They might start by uploading sales data and creating customer incentives for creating an account login.
Universal Analytics promises to change the face of digital analytics. Now it’s time for Australian businesses to get creative in their use of the technology and for early adopters to lead the way.
About the Author
Kathryn Galland is a business and technology writer with an interest in all things digital. She works in communication in Sydney.
Q&A: Professor Loredana Padurean, Asia School of Business
As someone who is creating Asia Pacific’s business leaders of the future, what do you believe are the essential skills leaders require?
In many ways, we need leaders who are Renaissance women/men or polymaths, as opposed to specialists of an industry or a field. A polymath is a person with profound knowledge, proficiency and expertise in multiple fields and today’s leaders have to be able to combine various ideas, look at problems in novel and useful ways, and develop a broad and yet still deep set of skills, talents, and knowledge.
You’ve coined ‘smart’ and ‘sharp’ as skills of the future. What are these?
They are replacements for ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills, a concept coined by a US Army doctor in 1972 who observed that his pupils had different skills: dealing with machinery required ‘hard’ skills, while dealing with people and paper were ‘soft’ skills. This concept has served us well since, but I find it too binary, not to mention the semantic implications of the words themselves.
Soft implies gentle, delicate, mild, quiet, tender, weak. However, there is nothing soft in navigating competing perspectives and cultures, handling and delivering critical feedback or dealing with office politics. Instead, I prefer to call these skills ‘smart’. Hard implies rigid, difficult, heavy, static. But how can we think of engineering or software development as static or rigid? I believe ‘sharp’ is more apt as such skills need constant updating or sharpening.
I think it’s time to reflect on these classifications, because we can drastically change someone’s perspective by how we choose to talk about and frame something.
How important are smart skills in leadership today?
Smart skills are more important than ever because we live in a world of extreme diversity: generational, ethical, value-based, gender, etc. Gone are the days when giving an order was an effective act of leadership. I personally work with people from five different continents and across five different generations, therefore as leaders, we need to know how to adapt, motivate, inspire and connect. We need to increase our investment in learning about them in action, especially as smart skills are more difficult to develop.
I believe that a successful leader today has to be both smart and sharp. Take cognitive readiness, one of my top 10 smart skills. In order to be cognitive ready, one has to master system dynamics, one of my top 10 sharp skills. Also, did you know that one of the primary reasons why digital transformation fails is not the absence of digital literacy, a sharp skill, but the need for more validation and adaptability, both smart skills. So, instead of thinking of these skills as binary, I prefer to think of them as the yin and yang; co-existing and complementing each other.
So, you can teach leaders smart skills then?
Yes, you can, via a combination of the classroom experience, plus an action component supported by deeply embedded reflection. At ASB we call this Action Learning, and we teach it both in the MBA and in the executive programs. For example, in teaching a leader emotional maturity as a smart skill, first they need to learn what it is, and then act on it, before reflecting on what we did and how we did it. And then to repeat it, but this time with more expertise and awareness. It’s not easy, but that’s why my favourite mantra is ‘the job is easy, the people are not’.
Discover Professor Padurean's successful skills for a digital transformation here